22 Apr Happy Birthday Blog: Rita Levi-Montalchini
Born: April 22, 1909
Known For: Nobel Laureate in Neurobiology
Though statistically few women have won the Nobel Prize, especially in the science fields, Rita Levi-Montalchini shared the Nobel Prize in 1986 for Physiology or Medicine with her colleague Stanley Cohen on the basis of their discovery of a bodily substance that stimulates the growth of nerve cells.
Prior to this discovery, Rita spent a long career in neurobiology, commencing with her doctoral studies in the 1930s. Born in Turin in 1909, Rita knew from an early age that she did not want to take the typical path for young women of marriage and children. She convinced her more conservative father to allow her to attend university and eventually to pursue a degree in medicine.
After gaining her PhD, she began a position at the University of Turin under her mentor Giuseppe Levi. Following Mussolini’s 1938 declaration that Jewish people could not work at universities, she fled with her family to Florence for the remainder of the German occupation of Italy. Follow the war, she accepted a short-term position at Washington University in St. Louis (USA).
In this lab she did her most significant work toward isolating the nerve agent, and she remained on staff at the university for 30 years. Throughout the remainder of her career she worked in labs both in Rome and St. Louis, winning numerous awards for her contributions to neurobiology prior to the Nobel award.
For all her contributions, and her remarkable story, The Good Doctors wish Rita a very happy birthday!
Learn more about her here.